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Whale Art
Draw a Manatee

Manatees are marine mammals that sometimes are called "sea cows". The name fits somewhat, as they are generally slow moving, gentle giants. Get a feel for their shape, size and design with your own manatee art.
Manatee Cow with calf
Credit: FWC

Imagine! A 10 foot long, 1000 pound adult manatee is almost the same length and weight as some of today's very small cars (although quite a different shape). Whether you see one from land, a boat, or when swimming next to one, you can't help but be amazed at their size. How could you draw something this huge? The directions below carry some clues to help you.


Credit: FWC

Read aloud the clues below. Ask students to listen carefully and draw a manatee as described by the clues. Repeat the clues as you allow drawing time for each feature described. (Or you may wish to print the clues and let students read clues for themselves.) Display finished drawings to reinforce the uniqueness of each manatee.

  • About 7 to 10 feet long, manatees have large, gray seal-like bodies, which taper or narrow at both ends.

  • The manatee's head is smaller in diameter than the body is near the front, but it is still quite broad. Some might say the head is like the head of a really large St. Bernard dog, or maybe a walrus? It has gray, wrinkly skin instead of fur.

  • The skin on the head is loose, and has facial jowls the hang down.

  • The lower lip is set back from the top lip. No ears are visible.

  • Instead of a nose, the manatee's face forms a blunt snout--almost like an elephant without a truck (manatees actually are related to the elephant). The snout has two nostrils at the front.

  • The head has two small eyes that are somewhat widely spaced. Because the snout is narrow than the head, the nostrils are spaced more narrowly than the eyes.

  • Their body has two forelimbs or "flippers" about a foot or two behind the head. In length, the flippers are about 1/6 as long the body. The flippers have cuticles or nails near the tip.

  • The body has a very broad, paddle shaped tail--just in front of the tail, l the body narrows or tapers, before the tail starts, and then the tail gets broad.

Try This! Extensions
  • Have a group of student volunteers use chalk to draw an actual size manatee on the blacktop of the playground.

  • When students translate the clues into a drawing, they're sure to think of questions about anatomy and adaptations. Have them list their questions in a journal or on a chart and record answers as they find them through research.

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